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Meet Your Workshop Instructor: Ira Gardner

Aaron Jin

Communications Intern

Spokane-based photographer Ira Gardner taught “Building a Business Model for Artistic Success,” the first part in a two-part series of Spokane artist support workshops on September 14, but you can still sign up for Branding & Marketing for Artists, being held on September 23 at SPARK Central.

Who are you: I am a photographer, writer, and instructor at Spokane Falls Community College, where I teach photography and business practices. In my own artwork, I explore a world through a lens of “poetic realism” and create imagery that creates a pause for self-reflection.

Favorite “hidden gems” in Spokane: 2nd Look Books, Little Garden Café, Hogwash Whiskey Den.

Role model: Minor White. He was an artist, educator, and writer whose work transcended technical precision and craft and operated in a spiritual realm.

Proudest accomplishment: It is hard to think of one achievement above all others. Professionally I think it is seeing my past students go on to be successful in their careers but personally, I think being a father of a son who is fully launched out into his life and is happy is what I am most proud of.

Life motto: “Live every day like it’s a camping trip!” I try to live a life that is full of adventure, joy, and simplicity.

The Big Question: What do young artist need to recognize about the business of art?
Unless it is to remain a hobby forever, at some point art becomes a business. There are two basic concepts that I think all artist need to understand. The first one is understanding that showing your work is very different than selling your work. Most artist think success starts with getting a show and they will jump at every opportunity to display their work in a coffee shop, winery, or gallery. However, this often involves the artist spending thousands of dollars on exhibitions that do not generate any sales. Artist have to understand how to make strategic decisions about which venues they show their work in and how to create an effective brand affiliation partnership. The venue where you exhibit your work needs to become a strategic business partner that has a vested interest in selling your work instead of just using it as a means of drawing in customers for their business by hosting an event.

How about getting to this point – what do artists need for their work to be sell-able?
Prior to showing your work, I think the most difficult concept for young professional artists to grasp is the recognition that their artwork needs to solve a problem for the person buying it. Buckminster Fuller once said, “the universe doesn’t owe me a living. I have to go out and solve a problem and then the universe will support me.”

To begin to understand what problem our artwork solves we first need to reflect deeply on their own motivation for creating the work and think about what questions our art is asking. In a way, the artist is their own first customer because they are creating an artistic expression that fulfills some deeply held need. When you can unlock what that is in yourself you will open up a whole new vocabulary for talking about your work and will understand who you need to show this work to. You will be able to build an authentic connection between you and the collectors of your artwork through this mutual understanding that you are creating in your artist statement and marketing materials. This relationship between the artist and the collector can be expressed by the African proverb, “I am because we are.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn how to launch your art from a hobby into a business! Sign up here.

Aaron Jin is the Artist Trust communications intern. He was an Intiman Emerging Artist in 2016 and loves to think about his Facebook statuses. He will join artEquity’s national cohort after attending their facilitator training this fall. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter.